Climate

Climate change keenly felt in Alaska's national parks
February 13, 2011 09:10 AM - Yereth Rosen, Reuters, ANCHORAGE, Alaska

Thawing permafrost is triggering mudslides onto a key road traveled by busloads of sightseers. Tall bushes newly sprouted on the tundra are blocking panoramic views. And glaciers are receding from convenient viewing areas, while their rapid summer melt poses new flood risks. These are just a few of the ways that a rapidly warming climate is reshaping Denali, Kenai Fjords and other national parks comprising the crown jewels of Alaska's heritage as America's last frontier. These and some better-known impacts -- proliferation of invasive plants and fish, greater frequency and intensity of wildfires, and declines in wildlife populations that depend on sea ice and glaciers -- are outlined in a recent National Park Service report.

Space Weather
February 10, 2011 08:17 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Space weather is the concept of changing environmental conditions in near-Earth space. It is distinct from the concept of weather within a planetary atmosphere, and deals with phenomena involving ambient plasma, magnetic fields, radiation and other matter in space. "Space weather" often implicitly means the conditions in near-Earth space within the magnetosphere and ionosphere, but it is also studied in interplanetary (and occasionally interstellar) space. The primary source of these changes is what happens on the Sun. Changes in the near-Earth space environment affect our society. The best known ground-level consequence of space weather is geomagnetically induced currents, or GIC. These are damaging electrical currents that can flow in power grids, pipelines and other conducting networks and cause disruptions and black outs. Eight years ago, the American Meteorological Society tentatively reached out to the space weather community by scheduling a day-and-a-half Space Weather Symposium at its Annual Meeting. That symposium included briefings from operational and research agencies involved with space weather as well as a variety of talks targeting areas of interest common to meteorology and space weather.

Past Antarctic cooling may help global warming study
February 10, 2011 06:42 AM - Alister Doyle, Reuters Environment Correspondent, OSLO

Sea temperatures off the Antarctic Peninsula have cooled over the past 12,000 years, according to a study on Wednesday that may help scientists understand the impact of modern global warming on the frozen continent. Scientists want to learn more about Antarctica because even a thaw of the fringes could raise sea levels and swamp low-lying coasts. The continent, discovered only in 1820, contains enough ice to raise world sea levels by 57 meters (187 ft). "In Antarctic science we have been missing good records of sea surface temperatures near the ice sheet," lead author Amelia Shevenell of University College London and the University of Washington, Seattle, told Reuters. "We are starting to fill in the gaps," she said of the study in the journal Nature.

Time to Get to Know!
February 9, 2011 10:24 PM - Editor, ENN and Get to Know

The 2011 Canadian Wildlife Federation Robert Bateman Get to Know Contest begins April 10. Renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman invites youth aged 5-18 to go outside and "get to know" their wild neighbors by creating art, writing, digital photography, and video entries. The goal: to engage the power of art to help youth become more connected with nature. Last year, twenty two winners of the Robert Bateman Get to Know Contest attended the Get to Know Art & Nature Camp at the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on August 23-27. Hosted by Parks Canada, the kids took part in workshops (led by local artists from Alberta and Montana), discovered local species and ecosystems, and worked on a video project encouraging young people across North America to enter the new video category of the Get to Know Contest.

Thunder Snow!
February 8, 2011 04:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Thundersnow, also known as a winter thunderstorm or a thunder snowstorm, is a relatively rare kind of thunderstorm with snow falling as the primary precipitation instead of rain. It typically falls in regions of strong upward motion within the cold sector of an extratropical cyclone, where the precipitation consists of ice pellets rather than snow. Snowstorms that trigger lightning are rare. Of the roughly 10,000,000 cloud-to-ground lightning flashes observed over the continental United States each year, about 0.1 percent to 0.01 percent are associated with snow, says Walter Petersen, atmospheric physicist with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This thundersnow happened this winter in northern Alabama and was observed first hand by sophisticated lightning mapping station in Huntsville

The Dunes of Mars
February 7, 2011 12:41 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A dune is a hill of sand built by the wind. Dunes occur in different forms and sizes. Most kinds of dunes are longer on the windward side where the sand is pushed up the dune and have a shorter slip face in the lee of the wind. Dunes can be found in any environment where there is a substantial atmosphere, winds, and dust to be blown. Dunes are common on Mars, and they have also been observed in the equatorial regions of Titan. Sand dunes in a vast area of northern Mars long thought to be frozen in time are changing with both sudden and gradual motions, according to research using images from a NASA orbiter. These dune fields cover an area the size of Texas in a band around the planet at the edge of Mars' north polar cap. The new findings suggest they are among the most active landscapes on Mars. However, few changes in these dark-toned dunes had been previously detected before a campaign of repeated imaging by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Torrential rain in Sri Lanka kills 11
February 7, 2011 06:10 AM - Ranga Sirilal, Reuters, COLOMBO

Heavy rain triggered flooding in Sri Lanka that killed at least 11 people and is threatening up to 90 percent of the staple rice crop, heightening concern about supply shocks and inflation, officials said on Sunday. Heavy monsoon rain caused flooding across the Eastern, Northern and North Central provinces for the second time in less than a month. More than 250,000 people have been forced into temporary shelters by this latest inundation. "A large amount is destroyed. More than 90 percent of the crop will be destroyed this time, " Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene told Reuters, referring to the rice crop.

Russia poised to breach mysterious Antarctic lake
February 5, 2011 09:57 AM - Alissa de Carbonnel, Reuters, MOSCOW

For 15 million years, an icebound lake has remained sealed deep beneath Antarctica's frozen crust, possibly hiding prehistoric or unknown life. Now Russian scientists are on the brink of piercing through to its secrets. "There's only a bit left to go," Alexei Turkeyev, chief of the Russian polar Vostok Station, told Reuters by satellite phone. His team has drilled for weeks in a race to reach the lake, 3,750 meters (12,000 ft) beneath the polar ice cap, before the end of the brief Antarctic summer. It was here that the coldest temperature ever found on Earth -- minus 89.2 Celsius (minus 128.6 Fahrenheit) -- was recorded. With the rapid onset of winter, scientists will be forced to leave on the last flight out for this season, on Feb 6.

The Alarming Amazon Droughts of 2005 and 2010
February 4, 2011 08:58 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

When thinking of the wettest place on land, most people think about rainforests such as the Amazon, which can get up to 78 inches of rain per year. All this precipitation supports the Amazon's rich plant life which helps moderate carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. It is then quite alarming to learn that the Amazon has suffered two devastating droughts in the last five years. Researchers fear a continuation of this disturbing trend.

Ice Cores Yield Rich History of Climate Change
February 4, 2011 08:23 AM - Editor, Science Daily

On Friday, Jan. 28 in Antarctica, a research team investigating the last 100,000 years of Earth's climate history reached an important milestone completing the main ice core to a depth of 3,331 meters (10,928 feet) at West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS). The project will be completed over the next two years with some additional coring and borehole logging to obtain additional information and samples of the ice for the study of the climate record contained in the core.

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